“Float and Sink” is a simple scientific experiment and ticks the boxes for what Dr. Montessori outlined as a useful, practical exercise for early learning. It involves testing leading to a conclusion.

The exercise incorporates movement and follows a certain procedure from left to right. It motivates the child to do further testing of different materials.It promotes clear observation and the exercise built-in control of error. This means the materials or objects consistently float or sink on testing.
It clearly gives meaning to the words “float” and “sink” adding to the child’s vocabulary.
Using tongs strengthens the hand muscles and develops fine motor skills.

Materials –

  • A large transparent plastic bowl full of water.
  • A pair of tongs.
  • Objects for testing.
  • A laminated sheet separated into two fields with the headings “Float “ and “Sink”. You can use a plastic sleeve if you don’t have access to a laminator. The sheet has a picture of an object on top of the water on the “Float” side. On the “Sink” side there is a picture of an object lying on the bottom of the bowl.

float sink

Click on image to download or click HERE to print jpeg or pdf file.

Objects to test – Feather, cork, paper, stick, bamboo, small empty bottle with lid, wooden block, sponge, boat, shell, stone, paper clip, small bottle filled with water, button, wire, rubber, metal pencil sharpener, metal spoon, metal fork, bead, nail, etc.
Have some items gathered for testing, but also let the child find items in the environment to test.

Set Up –

  • Bowl of water on a low table.
  • Place the test objects and tongs on the left side of the bowl.
  • Put the Float/Sink sheet on the right side.


Demonstrations –

Before demonstrating always test the procedure yourself to make sure the bowl is at the right height and that the tongs work well on the chosen objects.

  • Take one object with tongs and drop it into water.
  • Observe if the object floats or sinks.
  • Ask the child for his opinion.
  • Retrieve the object with the tongs and place it on the field that describes whether it goes on the “Float” side or “Sink” side.
  • When finished testing, the child replaces the objects and tongs to the left hand side of the bowl.

This is a simple experiment to prompt a child’s enquiring mind.


Dawn Hyde is a retired Montessori-trained preschool director. She started two Montessori preschools in Australia. She was a ski instructor and riding instructor. Dawn now writes and illustrates kids’ picture books and parenting guides, and is passionate about the value of including art in early childhood education. She lives with her husband on the Gold Coast, Australia.

Please share and leave a comment below – Dawn.


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